Coronavirus: Trump puts his need for adoration over the public health

Glory runs from Trump as he runs from the truth. He and the truth are not on speaking terms.

US President Donald Trump. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I’m old enough to remember when “kiss my ass” was a vulgar insult, but under US President Donald Trump it has become a presidential directive.
It is no secret that this president craves fealty and flattery, and that has never been more apparent than in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s worst health disaster in a century. He complains he doesn’t get enough “appreciation” for the job he has been doing, and reporters who remind him of his failure to tell the truth were viewed by him as being “threatening.”
Aides report that he has cabin fever, spends a lot of time watching television and wants to get out more. But the damaging optics of playing golf amid stay-at-home rules has forced him to eliminate his raucous political rallies that are keeping him at the White House. As a result, he’s turned his daily press briefings into rallies. For props he brings in favored corporate executives (contributors), like the My Pillow Guy, to praise his “incredible” leadership and plug their companies. 
Noticeably absent are doctors, nurses, first responders and the ones risking their lives on the front lines in this war.
Trump begins each session by reading his talking points cold, something that has been compared to a fifth grader reading a book report about a book he never read. His favorite part isn’t sharing information with a worried public, but attacking the media.
He has accused the media of being “the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to my election success.”
A special media target seems to be black female reporters who – over the years – he has berated as “stupid,” “a loser” and a “racist,” The Washington Post noted.  One particular target is PBS’ Yamiche Alcindor.
Sunday, he accused her of being “threatening” and told her to “act… more positive” toward him. He cut her off mid-sentence, and an aide yanked the microphone from her after some digs about her career.
He times his televised press briefings (his press secretary has yet to hold a single one) to butt up against the evening news telecasts, and when networks don’t carry them entirely live, they are accused of being anti-Trump partisans. 
The Guardian observed, “For more than an hour from the lectern he makes self-aggrandizing remarks, rewrites history, casts blame, scores political points, goads the media and sends fact checkers scrambling, ceding the bully pulpit only to let other speakers sing his praises.”
The media “must stop live-broadcasting Trump’s dangerous, destructive coronavirus briefings,” because his Rose Garden briefings are essentially campaign events, wrote The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan.
The president repeatedly boasts that his ratings are up, but that is largely because millions of people are homebound and hungry for information. The only competition he has is from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose daily briefings stand in stark contrast to Trump’s. Cuomo is consistently well informed, articulate, prepared, in command of the facts and sticks to business without veering off into personal vendettas and blatant lies.
Trump is often uninformed. “I didn’t know people died from the flu,” he said. In the 2018-19 season over 34,200 people died. He was shocked by the death toll of the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed his paternal grandfather, and the fact that the disease did not originate in Spain but most likely at a US Army base in Kansas and taken to Europe when American soldiers went “over there.”
What Trump craves most is koved, Hebrew for honor or glory. As Leo Rosten points out in Joys of Yiddish, the Talmud says, “a man who pursues koved, from him glory runs away.”
Glory runs from Trump as he runs from the truth. He and the truth are not on speaking terms. The thirst for koved is a recurring theme. He puts his own political health above the public health. He constantly kvetches that the press doesn’t print what he wants to read about himself.
Worse, it prints the truth. Like when he was accurately quoted attacking two blue state governors for not being “appreciative of me.” He publicly told US Vice President Mike Pence, “Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan.” He didn’t want to talk to either because they had criticized him. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.” 
The woman in Michigan is Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who had the temerity to complain “we’re still not getting what we need from the federal government.”  Two days after his “don’t call” order he said he loves Michigan, perhaps suddenly recalling that it is a swing state critical to his reelection.
A recurrent theme throughout Trump’s presidency has been his complaints that he doesn’t get the respect he expects, particularly by the media. And Democrats. He demands bipartisan support and when he gets it, as with last week’s unanimous passage of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill, he fails to reciprocate. He held a signing ceremony in the Oval Office surrounded by Republican leaders, but not a single Democrat was invited. Instead he attacked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as “incompetent,” who has accused him of fiddling while people are dying.
To hog credit for that bipartisan legislation, Trump wants all the virus stimulus checks going out across the country to bear his signature. Meanwhile, he’s taking credit for the checks in his campaign fundraising appeals.
Not long ago, Trump was calling the threat of a pandemic a Democratic hoax, assuring the nation he had the threat “totally under control” and predicting the virus would disappear with warming weather. Now, gobsmacked by reality, he’s setting up future bragging rights by saying keeping the death toll “down” to around 100,000 would be “a very good job.”
That is consistent with Trump’s “It’s all about me” approach. George Conway, a Republican lawyer and husband of White House aide Kellyanne, has written extensively that in his view Trump is a “narcissistic psychopath.”  The Mayo Clinic defines that as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.”
It fits.